The kick is up, and it's good and the game is...not quite over.
The NFL changed the Sudden Death rules today, and surprisingly, most teams agreed with the change. The change is seemingly small, but largely significant, and attempts to make the play-offs more fair and evenly balanced.
The new change will currently only impact play-off games, but the door has been left open to bring the rule into the regular season.
The current sudden death rule in the NFL was based off a coin toss, and the first team to score would win the game. Statistically the coin-toss winner won the game on the first possession in 34.4% of the games in question, and almost 60% of the time overall. That's a big statistic.
"Plenty of people on the committee, myself included, are so-called traditionalists," responded Indianapolis Colts president Bill Polian. "I am proud to be one. But once you saw the statistics, it became obvious we had to do something."
Under the new rule, which passed today by a 28-4 owners vote, if the team who wins the toss and gets the ball first scores a field goal, the opposing team gets a chance to tie it up again or win it with a touchdown. If the team that wins the toss scores a touchdown, they win immediately.
If the team that gets the ball second fails to tie the game up, then the first team wins. If they do tie it up, the former Sudden Death rules still apply. The team that scores next, wins.
As an example; in the recent Saints/Vikings play-off OT the Saints won the toss and scored a Field Goal on their first possession and won the game. Under the new rule, the Vikings would have received another possession to attempt to tie it or win it.
"Modified sudden death is an opportunity to make a pretty good rule ... even better," said Atlanta Falcons president Rich McKay, co-chairman of the competition committee. "Statistically, it needed to change. It wasn't producing the 'fairest result.'"
The new rule certainly seems to balance the scales a bit. In a league where you work so hard to get to the play-offs, to have the game decided by luck (coin toss) and a short field, seems arbitrary. Kickers are hitting field goals from as far away as 60+ yards. Scoring a touchdown, or at least fending off the opposing teams drive to defend your field goal seems more sportsmanlike.
The Minnesota Vikings, Buffalo Bills, Cincinnati Bengals and Baltimore Ravens were the teams which voted against the change. Interestingly, the new rule change would have favored the Vikings in this year's play-off overtime loss to the New Orleans Saints.
For our savvy Fantasy players, the new change will have zero impact on fantasy games, unless the rule is pulled into the regular season.